Welcome back to another update from the Mapillary team! If you’re reading this, you’ve hopefully had a chance to check out our introductory blog post for new users of Mapillary. At the end of that post, we mentioned that if you wanted to capture lots of imagery on the go, it’d be easier to do it from a car than just walking around. We also mentioned that you, the community, should stay tuned for a future update with specific phone mount recommendations for your car – well, this is that future update!
Disclaimer: Be sure to check your local laws before setting up a phone mount to capture imagery! It may be the case in your area that using your cell phone in this way while driving is illegal.
Today, we’re going to look at 7 different smartphone mounts from various brands that I had the opportunity to test out for myself, evaluating things like their durability, ease-of-use, and effectiveness for capturing imagery and giving them each a rating from 1-5. We chose these mounts because they represent a diverse sample of what’s currently available on the market, and many of these mounts are commonly recommended on platforms such as Wirecutter. However, it’s important to note that unlike other sites that have reviewed and rated mounts, one of the most prominent criteria for our purposes is the ability to capture good street-level imagery (as opposed to mounting your phone for hands-free navigation, for example). Just to make things simpler, here’s a quick key to better understand what our ratings mean:
With that said, the first mount I wanted to take a look at is the APPS2Car Suction Cup Phone Holder. This mount comes with remarkably clear instructions, and is very very easy to set up – it’s as simple as connecting one piece (the part that holds the phone) with the base, which has a suction cup on the bottom, and you’re ready to go! It also comes with an optional sticky pad in case you need more grip strength. I found this mount to be really easy to use and really reliable, encountering no hiccups while driving around. The ball joint design also means it’s really easy to adjust the mount for an optimal angle of the road while capturing imagery.
Next up is the DaVoice Car Phone Holder. I wasn’t as big a fan of this one, mostly because I found it sort of cumbersome to set up, and the instructional card it came with didn’t have much on it besides a limited set of instructions and a link to their website with the exact same set of instructions. After fiddling around with it for 10 minutes, I was able to get it assembled into a usable state and attached it to my windshield via suction cup to capture some imagery. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem particularly secure (especially compared to other mounts I tested) and fell down a couple times in my testing.
I also tested out the AONKEY Dashboard Car Phone Holder. This one was incredibly easy to set up, which I appreciated – it required literally 0 assembly and just makes use of one big suction cup with lots of surface area to easily stick to any dashboard. The angle of capture you can get using this is acceptable, but not 100% ideal, and there’s little room to make adjustments to actually improve the angle. This one is much better suited for something like GPS navigation, rather than capturing imagery, but it’s serviceable enough if your options are limited.
Another mount I looked at was the Panvox Magnetic Car Phone Mount. This one comes with simple instructions to put together the suction cup base and magnetic head. Once you do that, the magnetic head is used to attach your phone to the mount by sticking a magnet to the back of your smartphone. Setting it up is a cinch, and the magnets are surprisingly strong and make for a really sturdy hold! The base of the mount is also set up in such a way that it’s very easy to make the necessary adjustments to get a good angle of the road. All these factors add up to make this one my favorite of the bunch! Be aware that the adhesives are really strong, so be careful when placing them.
The next two mounts I tested are very similar, so I’ll lump them together here – they are the Kokuji Car Rearview Mirror and the FONKEN Phone Mount for Car. Like the names suggest, these mounts attach to your car’s rearview mirror, as opposed to many others that attach to your dashboard or windshield. The Kokuji comes out of the box in one big piece, so there’s no assembly needed, and the FONKEN only has a couple pieces that you need to snap together before you can use it, so both are quite straightforward to use. One hiccup I experienced with these mounts was that I found it somewhat cumbersome to actually attach them to my rearview mirror. I found that the ones that attach to your dashboard or windshield were just much more straightforward in that regard, which makes them more convenient. Additionally, they can cause trouble if you have any physical buttons on your rearview – you have to make sure they're not depressed when the mount is in place. Still, these rearview mirror mounts do allow for a pretty good angle of the road to capture imagery, so they’re far from unusable.
The final mount I tested was the iOttie iTap Magnetic 2. Similar to the Panvox mount, this one uses a suction cup and magnets to attach to your dashboard/windshield and your phone, respectively. This mount also comes with a protective film you can stick to your phone to avoid any cosmetic damage when attaching the adhesive magnet, which is nice. Setup for this mount is extremely simple, but it can be difficult to adjust your capture angle once it’s attached to your car, so be careful when doing so. Like the Panvox mount, I found this one to be extremely sturdy and especially reliable for holding your phone steady and in place for collecting imagery.
My personal favorite out of this bunch was the Panvox Magnetic Car Phone Mount, but there are plenty of other really great mounts in this list! If you’d like to take a look at a sequence captured using this mount, you can see one here.
The final thing I wanted to leave you with is this: ultimately, this is only a small selection of all the available mounts out there – after all, we can’t test everything. It’s entirely possible that you might find a smartphone mount that works better than even the best ones listed in this article. As always, we suggest bringing your findings to the Mapillary forum and taking the opportunity to connect with the community at large. Thanks for reading and happy mapping! :)